Options and Alternates: An Indispensable Tool

Options and Alternates

We live in an age of customization. Personalization and options are huge selling points for just about anything, from smartphones to cars to fashion. The same holds true for building design. Savvy architects use options as a valuable tool with which to ensure their success—which ultimately depends on client satisfaction.

The term options is used in software like Autodesk Revit to denote the ability to scroll through different design schemes or varying extents of construction with the click of the mouse. For purposes of documentation and construction of these options, they are referred to as alternates.

When developing a project’s program, there is a fine balance to be struck between the available budget and the types of facilities and amenities desired by the client. Design options can be prepared to help facilitate the decision-making process, whether contingent on the availability of funds, community approval or a public referendum. They are accompanied by construction cost estimates and operational proformas to convey the pros and cons of integration. With the continued development of user-friendly, collaborative software like Autodesk Revit, the architect and her/his team can easily prepare for the addition or subtraction of such alternative schemes.

For example, let’s assume a community desires a new recreation center. City Council knows they have enough funding to build the main reception and restroom facilities, assembly areas, community rooms and fitness center; however, plans for a large gymnasium appear to be outside their budgetary limit. By developing a base bid set of drawings, the design team establishes the amount of work that is within the established budget and guaranteed for construction. Beyond this, the design team can provide a full set of additional drawings that incorporate additional (additive) or fewer (deductive) alternate scopes or building footprints varying in square footage.

Additionally, plans can be incorporated to remodel or reconfigure space in the future, when additional funding becomes available or the owner decides to expand or manipulate the floor plan. A portion of a project initially designed as an office space could become an open lounge space or assembly area upon the future removal of interior walls. The key to this is detailing precisely how this change is connected to or subtracted from the base bid of work. Efficient and coordinated detailing limits the extent of demolition or loss of material that occurs when an alternate is exercised. The extent of these additions or deductions is project-specific and can range from an installing an alternative mechanical unit or lighting package to adding thousands of square feet.

Simplifying the alternates process is no easy task, but a coordinated effort by the architect and consultant team can lead to a much more concise set of drawings to guide the contractor through construction. Revit and AutoCad assist the team in easily turning these alternates on and off. Through the use of 3D views or renderings to communicate the difference between options, architects can better illustrate the difference in appearance or performance of a building to their clients. This alone may influence the client’s decision to incorporate an option into a given project’s scope—especially when it concerns interior/exterior finishes or material options. The difference between a basic building with a limited material palette and one that utilizes unique materials and a range of colors and innovative signage can make a world of difference in the final product, the user experience, and ultimately the popularity and success of a building.

The availability of options is a wonderful selling point for the modern architect. For the client who is unsure of the costs associated with their ideal building, wants to convey a variety of choices and options to the community, or plans to build in phases, options and alternates are a tool she/he cannot afford to overlook.

Posted on April 23, 2014 at 10:42am

comments powered by Disqus

Featured Articles

Trends in Locker Room Design

Trends in Locker Room Design

Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, a locker room was a cavernous,...



BRS has trademarked our client-centric process that builds consensus across...

Virtual Reality Tours of Woodland Aquatic Center

BRS is Taking the Next Step Towards The Future of Technology in Design

Virtual reality as a tool for design and client engagement.


#leedgold #yellowstone national park 3d modeling active adult active adult center active aging adaptive reuse addition adult recreation andy dufford announcement apex fitzmorris apex park & recreation district apex park and recreation district apex secrest aquatics architectural lighting architecture architecture for dogs art night arvada community recreation arvada police arvada police department arvada recreation associates aurora aurora community aurora recreation autodesk award award winning design awards ball storage ballot issue barker rinker seacat architecture barkitecture bentonville community center bicentennial park improvements bim brs architect brs architects camp canine animal therapy squad canine therapy canyon lodges canyon village canyon village lodgin canyon village lodging carla madison recreation center center of recreational excellence central denver ceo cfo chevo studios chuck musgrave city of arvada recreation city of southlake clearview library clearview library district client care colorado colorado recreation community architecture community center community center design community engagement community outreach community recreation community recreation architecture community recreation center community recreation center design community recreation center study community recreation design community recreation programming community recreation stakeholders construction construction award construction innovation construction tours craig bouck culture delta sector station denver recreation denver recreation center denver water design design award design awards design for aging design managers dog house design drive drive 2 eaton area community center eaton recreation employees energy efficient environmental design excelsior springs feasibility study